Sep 22, 9:47 AM EDT

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since July, another sign U.S. workers are enjoying job security


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since July, more evidence that U.S. workers are enjoying job security.

THE NUMBERS: The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims slid by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 252,000. That matched the level in mid-July, which was the lowest since April. The less-volatile four-week average fell by 2,250 to 258,500. Weekly claims have come in below 300,000 for 81 straight weeks, longest such streak since 1970.

The number of people collecting unemployment benefits is 2.11 million, down nearly 6 percent from a year ago.

THE TAKEAWAY: Applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for measuring layoffs. The low level of claims suggests that companies are holding onto staff.

"The labor market remains rock solid," Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities, wrote in a research note.

KEY DRIVERS: Unemployment is at a healthy 4.9 percent. Employers have added 204,000 jobs a month over the past year, though hiring slowed to 151,000 in August. The job market is robust despite a sluggish economy. Economic growth came in at an unimpressive 1.1 percent annual pace from April through June after growing just 0.8 percent in the first quarter and 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.

In a separate report, the Labor Department reported earlier that job openings rose 4 percent in July but hiring just 1 percent. That suggests employers are struggling to find qualified workers.

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